The Diversity of Character Belonging to Different Periods of Life
1 Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man…

I. The apostle, by placing the characteristic of childhood in the SPEECH, may possibly be understood to intimate that a child speaks before he thinks. Whether this be here particularly intended or not, it is certainly a fault very observable in such children as are not restrained, but very unbecoming and inconvenient in men. We readily and fully excuse a child who speaks without care or thought. Gaiety and inattention are natural to his age, and neither the subject nor the matter of his prate can be important. He talks of trifles only, and as they appear to his puerile conception. But when the mind is employed upon many subjects, the speech will of course be deliberate; some degree of slowness and gravity will still prevail in it, and a greater degree when the points under consideration are more difficult or more interesting. A mature understanding has constant, gentle exercise in the government of the tongue; and either remissness on the one hand, or eagerness on the other, will certainly betray itself in the discourse. Faults of these opposite kinds are to be found in young men of different dispositions; but both are to be referred to the same childish folly of speaking before they think. And thus a young man, by declaring opinions before he has well considered them, becomes afterwards unable ever to consider them without prejudice, and his thoughts, which should have governed his speech, are enslaved by it. Another part of the character of a child is, that he speaks all he thinks. Intending no ill, and suspecting none, he communicates all his sentiments and designs without reserve or caution. But the same unlimited openness is not suitable to the transactions among men. He cannot expect any success, nor indeed any reputation among them, who has not some degree of discretion and reserve and habitual secrecy. Nor is it only in the conduct of business, and to guard his own interests, that a prudent man will be often silent. He will not too freely discuss the characters of other men, nor speak too much of himself, lest he incur the reproach, in one case, of envy or ill-nature; in the other, of self-conceit or arrogance.

II. The next note, by which the apostle distinguishes the characters of a man and a child, is taken from the difference of their INCLINATIONS. Those of a child are always governed by trifles. The things which strike his fancy, which offer him immediate pleasure, how minute, how momentary soever, are the objects of his pursuit. But manly prudence includes in it attention to different kinds of good; the power of comparing them with regard both to their itenseness and duration; and the habit of resisting the allurements of trifling, short-lived pleasures, and of being directed by views of greater and more lasting happiness. He who suffers his mind to be continually engaged by mere amusements, and drawn away by them from every serious employment worthy of a rational being, whether of furnishing himself with useful knowledge and virtuous habits at one period of life, or at another of providing for the interests of a family, a neighbourhood, or the public; though his years may not be few, nor his amusements the same as in his childhood, is yet in the eye of reason still a child: not indeed in innocence, for a constant attachment to things of little value is not a little criminal; but in folly and perverseness.

III. In the JUDGMENT consists the third great distinction between the characters of a man and child. With little experience, and less exercise of his rational faculties, a child cannot have formed for himself any principles on which he may build real knowledge. He must of necessity learn many truths without the proper evidence of them, which yet he may afterwards by slow degrees discover. Nor are they the principles of knowledge only which he receives implicitly. Rules of conduct also he gathers from examples before he is able to understand their foundations. But it becomes a man to judge and act for himself: to examine as a critic, not receive as a disciple, all the reasoning proposed to him, and to direct his conduct by his own judgment, not by a blind submission to examples. He who takes his opinions without inquiry, though from the most accurate philosopher, has no more real knowledge than the child who takes them from his nurse. For in science that only is our own which we have earned by our attention and labour. What is cast upon us from the stores of others, without our claim or merit, loses its value in passing, and cannot enrich us. And he who in the regulation of his life is influenced by foolish fashions of which he has formed no judgment, or can give no approbation, may be justly charged with the negligence or the weakness of a child.

(W. S. Powell, D.D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

WEB: When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things.

The Christian a Child in Time, a Man in Eternity
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